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Bois des Buttes May 27th 1918
At the Bois des Buttes, the Second Battallion, occupying a second line of defence, were overrun by part of the last major German offensive of the war. They were ordered to stand their ground, and did so allowing defences to be organised. "Thus the whole battalion, colonel, 28 officers and 552 non-commissioned officers and men, responded with one accord and offered their lives in ungrudging sacrifice to the sacred cause of the Allies" (Gen. Berthelot 5th French Army, Order of the Day August 20th 1918)
The Maytime lark steps up onto the azure stave Above the golden furze of Hares Down, flow her notes Of liquid silver, trembling air above the cleave.
Dawn. Five hundred and eighty of us stumbled the duck-boarded mud holt. The Colonel passed the word "Surrounded. Hold until relieved." As if the Bosche had heard him speak the barrage opened.
"Stand to now men. The Old Eleventh! Come what may." Let anger hold them fearless in the howling mire Of German steel and keep them through the day.
We cling to soil and hope with fear solidified - a stench of stolid anger, countryman's defiance flaring in the cordite mist. "Let them come,- just let the bastards come!"
Death's smell is sweet, and darkly honeyed is the wind, New garlanded with flesh the wire of Picardy; The peonies of youthful sacrifice are freshly skinned.
As we died below, some snuffed, some racked, some impaled by their own bones, Above the trenches, the bomb bursts, rapt and innocent of hate the lark's song flowed.
The iron red soil, silk-shot with summer's shoots, On Devon pasture or in No-man's Land shall tap their bone and sinew with its roots.
All the deathlong day she sang until at last her song prevailed, And fluttered light against the last soul freed below.
The Maytime lark still trills her azure stave Her sunlit echo yet is heard: "Stand to, The Old Eleventh, Bravest of the Brave."